Cucina Italiana is one of the finest in the world, with a history stretching back thousands of years and a culture that still celebrates cooking and eating as an art form today. Chef Mario Cittadini, a keeper of the flame, has honed his skills to express the dishes of his native Tuscany in new ways – as chef and co-owner of the Michelin-starred Il Postale restaurant in Perugia, Italy.
Since 2009, Cittadini has been in Asia working at top establishments like the Mandarin Oriental, Taipei and Singapore where he delights guests with creations that balance traditional Italian cooking with the culinary excitement demanded at fine dining restaurants. For an all-too-brief four days, Cittadini brought a taste of Italy to Kuala Lumpur at the Mandarin Grill. The evening of fine cuisine from Il Belpaese was expertly paired with beautiful Italian wines chosen by head sommelier Gabriele Rizzardi from Villa Cafaggio Wines.
A festive aperitif of Abdreola Verv Preseco started the evening appropriately and set the stage for the first two courses – lightly smoked Boston lobster, pear, turnip and miso consomme and seared Hokkaido scallops, bottarga, braised romaine lettuce with passion fruit. Light, balanced and flawlessly cooked, Cittadini underlined his culinary fundamentals of respecting the ingredients with both courses.
While homely carbohydrates form the bedrock of Italian cooking, Cittadini eschewed the potential for stodginess with a feather-light touch. A single Tortelli served with a parmesan emulsion, black truffle and caviar presented the perfect mouthful, while risotto, flavoured with Jerusalem artichokes, green apple and truffle, exemplified refined comfort food.
However, Cittadini saved his ace for the main course with a divine roasted lamb loin accompanied by spring onion oil, parsnips and fava bean ragout. Not to be eclipsed, Rizzardi complemented the robust flavours with a bold Cabernet Savignon from Cafaggio basilica Del Cortaccio. Rounding off the meal with vanilla panna cotta, wild berries and burnt milk ice cream, Cittadini reimagined this most Italian of desserts as a fantastical garden both in ingredients and presentation. Life is indeed sweet in Cittadini’s culinary universe.